Ask Coach Baird

Recruiting season is heating up and Tyrone Willingham and his staff are doing a great job of getting kids (and their parents) interested in what he's building at the University of Washington. And now onto the letters . . . .

From Veronica Skeels
: This past season, the performance of the defensive line was disappointing. Yet it seemed we had seasoned veterans and talented depth at every position. Can you speculate on the possible causes of this underachievement? Was it mostly physical or mostly mental? Are we continuing to get good coaching of the defensive line? Did the coaches experiment with different lineups to try and find the best-performing combination? Continuing the questions on the defensive line, do you think Manase Hopoi would have performed better at defensive end rather than playing inside at tackle? Wasn't he at DE last year when he had the record-setting season? Was he ever tried back at his old position this past season?

A: I think you raise a good question with regard to the defensive line because I really believe football games are won up front. Rather than taking the negative, let's look at the improvements. First of all they lost a big force at defensive tackle when White-Frisbee couldn't play. That forced them to keep Hopoi inside. Hopoi simply got double teamed a lot and didn't have a very good year to boot. However, I really liked the development of Wilson Afoa and Greyson Gunheim. They really improved as the year went on and I believe with another year in the weight room will both be excellent if not NFL type players. Another kid who showed flashes was Eric Lobos when he was healthy and kids like Walt Winters continued to improve. There is a freshman coming up who I think may start next year in Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Look for him to push into the lineup as well. Coaching wise I thought their adding speed to the edge was an excellent move and really believe they are going to try to get some 4.5 type kids at defensive end in order to get a better rush. To be honest, the seniors didn't have a very good year and that really hurt them up front. I would expect with growth and development in the weight room that they will be much improved next year.
From Gerald Weishaar
Dear Coach Baird,
: I am going to put you on the spot. 1) Do you think Tyrone would've had the same record at Notre Dame as Charlie W had? 2) If Stanback wants to play in the NFL, it wouldn't be at quarterback. Do you think that he should ask to play at slot back or some other position?

A: Tyrone Willingham is at Washington now. How he would have done at Notre Dame is pure conjecture. I believe he would have taken them to a bowl game and I believe they screwed him over. I don't particularly like Notre Dame anyway so I really don't care. Coach Willingham is simply a wonderful sports-educator and I think any caring parent would want their son to play for him. Charlie was a Notre Dame alum and very popular there. He is a very good offensive mind and I think did a great job with Tyrone's recruits. I think Stanback should declare for the draft, and then after he gets a chance to evaluate what they think of him, pull his name back out and do what is best for any potential professional career. In order for the Huskies to be successful next season with him at quarterback, he is going to have to move from a thrower to a passer.
From Taft Ring
Coach Baird,
: What's your guestimate on what the 2006 class will look like number-wise by position and then the PSA/JC wish list for those slots? As a flash of the blazing obvious, recruiting is the only way the dawgs will be able to get back to being competitive and it is going to take time since losing has become our ingrained 'style' with no effective on-field leadership to make plays for a Win. The 'beaten dog syndrome' is definitely in the minds of our players. How does TW get the toughness and confidence installed in the '06 team? PS: I have been a season ticket holder since '57.

A: I am hoping for a full class with a player at every position. I have always believed in balance in recruiting and that simply means to have a in-coming kid at every position - then at the end of 4-5 years you are four deep at every spot. There are ways to measure toughness but you have to ask the tough questions when you are recruiting. Over the past six years, we only did that one time and that was Gilby's first year. Coach Willingham is an excellent recruiter. Look at Notre Dame and don't just think that they are the product of Charlie Wiess. It was the same thing when Rick Neuheisel came in and won immediately at Washington including the Rose Bowl in his second year. It was the case of a fresh approach with some already pretty good players. It will happen but it will take time.
From Dennis Chapin super Husky fan in Everett
Coach Baird,
: Regarding Kyle Trew from Edmonds-Woodway. My son played at Jackson H.S. with Johnny Kirton and Craig Chambers. When they played Kyle Trew he just demolished us. I can't and don't understand why he is not playing more. He is one of the best high school football players I've seen in the last 40 years. When I saw him in Spring Practice last years he was doing well. What is going on? He is being wasted by Tormey and Willingham.

A: I'm not sure what is going on with Kyle Trew except that I always saw him as an offensive player and he is obviously playing defense now. Because of the graduation of Lobendahn and Benjamin I can't imagine that he won't be given a serious look this spring. Having to pay your dues is a good thing at linebacker and learning that position takes time. I trust your judgment on him as a high school player but often times the jump to the next level requires some adjustment. They obviously need help at linebacker so I hope he is ready come spring. Believe me, if he was good enough, he would be on the field somewhere. I never used more than 4-5 linebackers in my 3 position rotation when I coached the position. Remember, in the past we rarely played a kid his first two years, believing that they would be much better at 21 and 22 years old. Hopefully that is the case with Kyle. I promise to watch him this spring and then will have a more educated guess.
From Thomas Johnson
Coach Baird,
: Coach: Thank you for your comments. I believe the dawgs have 11 commitments, which seems to be less than most teams right now. Is this a problem? Also, how many total scholarships do they have to offer? Thank you.

A: It doesn't make any difference how many commitments you have or when you get them, as long as you sign the right kids and fill your quota. Any discussion about not having enough early commits is purely for drama. I have said all along that the Huskies need to take a full and balanced class. By that, I mean they should be able to take one kid at every position or 21-22 total. I think with attrition that they will be able to do that and by my count they have at least 20 available spots right now. I know they are working on some JC kids for immediate help and expect that they will sign as many as 4-6 there. Personally I think they need an infusion of tough kids and that will really help them get better right away. Thanks for writing. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

| Click here to read more articles from Coach Baird | Top Stories